When PJ Zaji talks about his first career, he still speaks about it with passion.
After moving to Lubbock, TX from Iran as a teenager, he started in the food industry and soon bought his own restaurant. The only problem?
He hated it. Really, really hated it.
“I hated everything about the restaurant business. I didn’t want to be there open to close. I was always looking for exits. I was always looking for something else to do, but anything I touched while I was doing the restaurant failed. Anything that you can imagine, I tried and I failed” he recalls.
Just when he was about to file for bankruptcy with the restaurant, his wife got pregnant with their daughter. The restaurant was failing fast, but he needed a job more than ever.
“It was pretty tough timing...but I think I was forced to leave the restaurant business by the grace of God,” he says.
In what felt like divine intervention after so many attempts and failures, PJ suddenly received an offer to start a career in real estate. And he never looked back.
Table of Contents
- Building a Real Estate Career from the Pavement Up
- Stay On Top of Your Conversion Rates
- Be Relentless About Culture Fit
- Make Your Business Predictable
- What's Next? Being Everywhere
Watch the full interview with PJ Zaji here!
Building a Real Estate Career from the Pavement Up
Time and time again, our customers have proven that you don’t need a background in real estate to have a stellar career. PJ Zaji is no exception—in fact, he’d never even bought a house himself before getting his real estate license.
“When I started, I had no money to spend on marketing. And our office wasn’t tech-savvy, so we didn’t have trainings or new tech tools,” he says.
So, he went to work the old-fashioned way: passing out business cards.
“I went to Walmart’s parking lot with a sign that said, ‘I’m a real estate agent. How can I help you?’”
Against all odds, his strategy worked—really well. “My first month in the business, I had four contracts, and all of them came from Walmart’s parking lot.”
As soon as he had money in the bank, PJ reinvested in his business. “I made a rule for myself that I’d spend 50% of my earnings on my business. I don’t suggest that for everybody, but if you want to super boost your business at the beginning, you have to go all in,” he says.
By the end of his first year, he had closed 55 deals.
Finding His True Passion
During his second year as a real estate agent, PJ’s wife got her license and they began working together. They tried to find a brokerage they wanted to join, but ultimately decided to open their own so they could have more control over the business.
After a couple of successful years as a husband-and-wife team, PJ was ready to grow. “We had everything we wanted—better than what I wanted. I had the house I wanted, the car I wanted, but I still wasn’t satisfied with where we were at.”
He did some deep self discovery, sought out a coach, and went through a mastermind program.
“That’s when we realized that we needed to build a team. I want to pass my knowledge and system to other people. Then when they’re successful, we’re successful. It also allows me to do what I have a true passion for: figuring sh*t out.”
Now, instead of parking lots or (heaven forbid) hot wings, PJ’s day is centered on building and optimizing an amazing real estate business that’s leading in his market—Expand Realty Group.
Stay On Top of Your Conversion Rates
When PJ first began to reinvest his profits in his business, he went after Zillow leads and created a killer system that helped him ensure ROI—a system which he eventually translated over to his team.
“We basically dominate the Zillow market here. We are in every single zip code in town,” he says. In fact, the system was so successful that PJ’s team got a little lax on tracking conversion rates.
“Our Zillow rep asked which zip code was my favorite, where we spent the most money. But when I named it, it turned out to be our worst zip code on conversion.”
PJ was stunned.
They decided to take immediate action and pull back spend on the low-performing zip code and transferred that investment to a high-performing zip. That one simple change brought their overall conversion rate across Zillow up by 2% in just two months.
Needless to say, he and his team now monitor conversion rates closely.
“If I could go back five years, my number one tip to myself or any new team owners would be to create a clear vision of my business via reporting. Where am I? How much money am I spending? How committed am I? How committed is my team? And how much money am I spending?”
Be Relentless About Culture Fit
PJ was crushing it as a solo agent. But building a team didn’t go as smoothly as he might have hoped, and PJ was forced to let go of seven or eight agents he’d recruited after only two months.
But he came out of that experience much wiser, and now, he lives by three strict rules:
- Hire slow
- Know your non-negotiables
- Fire quick
It might sound harsh, but PJ walks the walk when it comes to culture. He once invested heavily in a new teammate, not only paying for his real estate school, but paying him a salary as well.
“And then he just wasn’t the right fit. He was an amazing guy, an amazing ISA. We loved him. But he wasn’t the fit that I needed in the company. And sometimes you don’t know that until they’re actually in action.”
So PJ let him go.
“I’ve learned that there are some things in my book that are non-negotiable,” he says. “It just has to be goodbye.”
And no, PJ isn’t precious about it. He’s pragmatic: “Some people drag it on and on for a long time. And then it gets harder. Every day that you don’t pull the trigger on that decision, it gets harder and harder and harder. And usually, if you don’t do it, it turns into conflict and drama.”
Once you’re in with PJ, though, you’re in. “I truly see my agents as my partners,” he says. “And people aren’t with me because of what we offer. They’re with us because of the people we have on our team, because of the environment we are creating for them, because of the experience that is available here.
Make Your Business Predictable
Despite being strict about culture fit, PJ truly cares about providing his team with the support they need. When an agent is unproductive, most team leaders turn to training as a solution to the problem.
“The number one reason for an agent to be unproductive is that they are overwhelmed. And if they’re overwhelmed, more training is the worst thing you can do,” he says.
Instead, PJ believes in preventing overwhelm by being consistent in the daily grind.
“If you wait until your leads dry up, it’s too late to start making calls. If work is a roller coaster, it’s because you’re a roller coaster,” he says.
“In my opinion, this business is very predictable. Just because it’s a sales job, a commission-based job, doesn’t mean it’s not steady income. If you want steady income, you’ve got to do steady work.”
What's Next? Being Everywhere
If it’s not clear by now, PJ has a big vision for the future—and he’s going all in on it.
But just like he did at the start of his real estate career, PJ doesn’t believe you need to get fancy or high-tech to start creating your own success.
His current secret weapon? His cell phone, which he affectionately refers to as his marketing department.
“I’m really big on videos,” he says. “I make two or three videos a week.”
People are too afraid to get into video, he argues. Too freaked out to push the red “Record” button. And those people are missing out on a big opportunity.
“This is how you can market yourself, brand yourself,” he explains. “Nobody can make excuses about why they don’t want to do it. ‘I don’t look good, I look stupid.’ That’s how everyone feels about making videos.”
It doesn’t take talent. All it takes is commitment.
At the end of the day, what you’re really trying to do is educate and connect with your community, provide real value. That’s all that really matters.
It’s safe to say that we can all expect to see and hear more from PJ in the future!